Lilly Endowment funds IU, Purdue study of ethics in AI, big data

Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded six-figure grants to Indiana University and Purdue University so they can explore the ethical challenges associated with artificial intelligence and big data—and then collaborate on their findings.

The Indianapolis-based private foundation has awarded $491,043 to Purdue to create the Leading Ethically in the Age of AI and Big Data effort within its College of Liberal Arts. It also has granted $348,980 to IU to launch an initiative called Ethics, Values and Technology: Developing Character for a Digital World within its Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture.

The initiatives are designed to help students and faculty become better prepared to address ethical challenges presented by fast-moving digital technologies.

“Character development has been a long-standing interest of Lilly Endowment, and we are pleased that Purdue and IU are collaborating on developing curricula and programs for their students that will instill ethical values while teaching relevant scientific and technological principles,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education, said in a prepared statement.

At Purdue, a steering committee will bring together experts in academia, business and government to collaborate on how to impose certain ethical values onto students as they learn about digital technologies.

IU’s initiative will have six focus areas—life sciences, artificial intelligence, digital communications, national and homeland security, the intersection of business, finance and law, and the intersection of digital arts and humanities, education and research—with a goal of creating curriculum on confronting ethical challenges in a digital world.

The two universities are expected to collaborate on the effort.

“All sectors of society are concerned about professional ethics in the context of artificial intelligence and data science,” David Reingold, the Justin S. Morrill Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Purdue, said in a prepared statement.

“While there are many areas of concern, there is consensus that leaders need both an understanding of the ethical implications and the possibilities of AI and data management,” Reingold said.

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